Monday, 16 May 2016

Crochet Cupcake Trinket Box Pattern

 This little cupcake trinket box is a great stash buster. It uses very little yarn, but makes a great gift for a friend, as you can fill it with sweet treats for them to eat, and they can keep the cupcake when they’re done! I designed these to be given as prizes when I hosted a Cake Break for the MS Society. This is my first ever crochet pattern, so please excuse any mistakes! I’ve used American notation, even though I’m British, because I learned to crochet in American terminology and that’s what’s stuck!

The icing “drips” can be free styled a little, you don’t have to follow my stitch count exactly, but you do need a longer drip in the back and the front to hide the button fastening and the join between the lid and base.

Needed: Brown DK yarn, white DK yarn, red DK yarn (for cherry), beads (for sprinkles), yarn needle, needle and thread, button, 4.5mm crochet hook.

Cupcake Base

Begin with a Magic Circle
R1: 6SC in Magic Circle (6)
R2: 2SC in first SC, 1SC in second SC, around (9)
R3: 2SC in first SC, 1SC in second SC, repeated 4 times, then 2SC in last SC (14)
R4: 2SC in first SC, 1SC in second SC, around (22)
R5: 2SC in first SC, 1SC in second SC, around (34)
R6: In back loops only, 1SC in each SC, around (34)
R7 – R11: 1 SC in each SC, around (34)
Slip Stich into next SC to finish off.
Finish off and weave in ends.


Begin with a Magic Circle
R1: 6SC in Magic Circle (6)
R2: 2SC in each single crochet, around (12)
R3: 1SC in first SC, 2SC in second SC, around (18)
R4: 1SC in first 2 SCs, 2SC in third SC, around (24)
R5: 1SC in first 3 SCs, 2SC in forth SC, around (30)
R6: 1SC in first 4 SCs, 2SC in fifth SC, around (36)
R7 – R10: 1SC in each SC, around (36)

Icing “drips”
Chain 4, SC in second chain from hook, HDC in next chain, DC in next chain, SS in the next SC of round 10
SS in next 3 SC
Chain 2, SC in second chain from hook, SS into next SC of round 10
SS in next 5 SC
Chain 3 SC in 2nd chain from hook, HDC in next chain, SS into next SC of round 10
SS in next 7 SC
Chain 4, SC in second chain from hook, HDC in next chain, DC in next chain, SS in the next SC of round 10
SS in next 3 SC
Chain 2, SC in second chain from hook, SS into next SC of round 10
SS in next 5 SC
Chain 3 SC in 2nd chain from hook, HDC in next chain, SS into next SC of round 10
SS in next 6 SC
Chain 5, SS to other side of first “long drip” to make a button hole, and SS one more time to secure.

Finish off, weave in ends.
Cherry (optional)
Begin with a Magic Circle
R1: 4 SC in Magic Circle (4)
R2: 2SC in each SC (8)
R3: 1SC in each SC around (8)
R4 SC decrease in first 2SC around (4)
Stuff with yarn tails, and using a yarn needle close bottom. Secure to top of lid.

Using white yarn and a yarn needle, secure the lid to the base under the “long drip” opposite the button hole.
Using a normal needle and some thread secure a button to the front of the base, so that the chain 5 on the lid fastens in place, keeping the box closed.
Add bead “sprinkles” or a cherry on the top, or both!

Monday, 8 February 2016

One Pan Corgetti Carbonara

I received a Tesco Orchard Voucher for £2 off Tesco Fruit and Veg, so I decided to buy something I wouldn't usually buy. I bought some courgetti, a spaghetti substitute made from courgette, because I'd heard a lot of people taking about it.

I decided to make a healthier Carbonara using the courgetti, as I love Carbonara but it's not the healthiest of dishes. My thrown together recipe is found below. I served it with some baby sweetcorn I also got with my vouchers. Both I and the hubby loved it. Suggestions on improvements would be welcome :)

Ingredients (serves 2)
Small amount of cooking oil
Courgetti - Can be bought pre-prepared in Tesco, or made using a spirlizer.
Bacon - fat cut off
Garlic - I use garlic powder as it's easy to store, but fresh garlic does just as well. I used the equivalent of 1 garlic clove.
50ml Milk
1 Large Egg
Handful of Grated Cheese - Traditionally Parmesan is used, but I used extra mature cheddar because that's what we had in!
Salt and Pepper to taste

1. Heat oil in frying pan. Cut bacon into small pieces, discarding fat.
2. Fry bacon in oil. When bacon is cooked add the Courgetti and garlic, stirring regularly. Cook for 4 minutes.
3. Whisk together milk, egg and half of the cheese. Add salt and pepper to taste.
4. A bit at a time, add the milk/egg mixture to the frying pan, stirring continuously. Allow egg to cook through and reduce for 5 minutes, or until liquid is mostly gone.
5. Serve with cheese sprinkled on top.

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Tesco Christmas pudding - trial tasting

 I received a voucher from Tesco Orchard for £10 off their Finest Christmas pudding, which as they were on for half price got me two for free! One for us and one for foodbank.

The packaging was very attractive but I noticed some of the boxes were damaged, so picked out boxes that weren't. When I got the puddings home the cardboard package had buckled, because it couldn't support the weight of the heavy puddings. Not a big deal, but I'd expect better from the Tesco Finest Range.

We cooked the pudding in the microwave which took less than 10 minutes, so that would be perfect after a hectic Christmas dinner! We served it with custard, which went down a treat. The pudding had an excellent texture and flavour. Both my husband and I loved the addition of the nuts as it gave an extra crunch to the moist pudding. The fruit was very juicy and flavorsome. I found the alcoholic nature of the pudding a bit overwhelming, but my pudding loving husband thought it was just spot on! The pudding was very moreish, and we both wanted more than one slice! I'm not sure I'd manage more than one slice after a big Christmas dinner though. Overall I'd give the pudding a 4/5, because whilst it was tasty and easy to prepare I'm not sure it's worth £10.

I'm not cooking Christmas dinner this year, but I think i may end up in charge of pudding! ;)

Do you make your own Christmas pudding or do you buy it?

Thursday, 5 November 2015

Incredibly Simple Cupcakes

I recently posted a youtube video showing you how to make cupcakes following the incredibly simple recipe that has been passed down from my great grandmother. This is one of my favourite recipes, one I make time and time again.

In this blog I'm going to give the full recipe, as well as some adjustments and experiments I've tried over the years that add a twist to these really simple cakes

Ingredients (makes about 16 cup cakes if using medium eggs)

2 Eggs
Self Raising Flour
(optional) Baking Powder and Milk


  1. Preheat the oven to 180 °C
  2. Weigh the eggs, still in their shells. Take note of this weight. This is the weight of flour, sugar and butter you will need (e.g. if your eggs weigh 200g, you need 200g of flour, 200g of butter and 200g of sugar).
  3. Place all the ingredients in a large bowl and mix until combined and the mixture drops from the spoon. Add a teaspoon of baking powder before mixing if you want the cakes to be extra fluffy. If the mixture doesn't get to the correct consistency, add a small splash of milk.
  4. Spoon into cake cases and bake for 15 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean.
  5. Leave to cool, and then decorate or simply dust with icing sugar.


Once you've mastered the basic recipe, making changes can keep things interesting. Below are cupcake variants that have been tried and tested by my friends and family.

Banana Cup Cakes - Replace 1 egg and some of the sugar with a ripe banana - These are even more delicious if filled with raspberry jam!
Chocolate Chip Cup Cakes - Add chocolate chips to mixture before baking
Cinnamon and Pecan Cupcakes - Add a teaspoon of powdered cinnamon to the cake mix, and decorate with whipped cream and pecans.

Have you got a favourite go-to baking recipe? Please comment and tell me what it is, I'd love to know!

Thursday, 29 October 2015

Draft Letter to an MP about Refugee camps in Lesbos

I was recently moved to tears by this article in the Huffington Post about refugees in camps in Lesbos, where people are dying due to lack of shelter, supplies and medical help. I felt compelled to write to my MP, especially after learning that so much of the help given by people is not actually getting to the people who need it.

Writing to MPs is amazingly effective in bringing change and action. These people are paid (through our taxes) to act on the issues that are important to us. If we write to them, they will know what issues are important. I have never written a letter to an MP that has not received a reply, and I have sometimes had letters passed on to the policy maker in that particular area.

I have found it helpful when I first wrote to MPs to send a generic letter written by someone else. Sometimes I edited these letters, sometimes I just addressed them to my MP and sent them as is. I have included a generic template letter below (I added some more detail addressing my MP, because I have written to him before). Please use this letter to write to your MP; the more voices speak out, the more likely the government is to listen.

You can find your MP's name contact details here, just type in your post code.

Dear [MP's name]

I’m sure you, like I, have been distressed and concerned by the vast number of refugees attempting to flee from ISIS and find refuge in Europe. These men, women and children are only taking such long and dangerous journeys because they fear for their lives.

 I understand that the United Kingdom is offering help to a number of refugees who have not yet reached Europe. I also understand the government’s desire to focus aid for those who have not yet reached Europe, as those people are clearly the most vulnerable to attacks from terrorist groups. I fully support this action by the government, but feel that it is our duty to do more to help our fellow human beings.

Recently I have read about the plight of refugees who have already reached European soil. I was particularly moved by an article written by a charity worker, from a small charity Help Refugees, in the Huffington Post. She wrote of the horrific conditions in refugee camps in Lesbos, where people are dying of starvation, dehydration, exposure and disease. She wrote of children who’s feet are literally rotting away, because they are sleeping outside in the cold and rain and do not have access to clean, dry clothes. I was surprised to read that there is very little presence in these camps of large charities or of government help. There are little or no medical facilities. People who have reached the “safety” of European soil are dying, and will continue to die if nothing is done to provide proper shelter, provisions and medical help, especially as winter approaches. This is a matter of great urgency.

I urge you to raise this issue with anyone who can help. Although people are donating money and items to charity the charities are not getting to the people who need them because of government policy and red tape. I am unsure if UK policy is affecting this, or if it is the local governments where the camps are located. Either way, I urge you to talk to our own government and ambassadors for other governments, so that we can do everything possible to prevent these people from dying.

I am sure that you will take any action you can to save the lives of these people.

Yours Sincerely

 [Your name]
P.S. The article in question can be read online here.

Monday, 26 October 2015

Eat well for less

I've really been enjoying the BBC's Eat Well For Less series. It's full of good advice about feeding a family healthily on a budget, as well as dispelling a lot of myths about food.

I've not found it overly helpful though, because as a family we're well within the normal spending range for our family (we're a couple, and spend about £40 a week on groceries, which is about average for a family of 2). We tend to cook our own meals, we've steered clear of takeaways since we came up with a meal plan, we don't usually buy branded products and we shop at a budget supermarket. Surely we can't make any more savings?

Then I came across the absolutely fascinating Facebook page! The people running this claimed they could feed a family of 4 for half of my budget. I genuinely didn't believe it. But I've been reading through their menus, and it seems with some careful planning a bulk buying you really can feed a family for as little as £20!

I'm not sure we have the storage space for 3 months worth of food (especially as our flat has issues with damp, and I wouldn't want to lose that much food if it went bad!) but I'm taking it as a personal challenge to get as close to £20 a week as possible. I'm going to try to buy a month's worth of freezables and non-perishables in advance, and then buy perishables week on week. I think initially it will be more like £30 a week, but we'll see where we'll get.

Do you have any top tips for buying in bulk? What about buying in bulk when you don't have a car (which we don't!) I'd love to hear them!

Thursday, 15 October 2015

PLAYexpo Manchester 2015

Last weekend the husband and I went the PLAYexpo Manchester with some friends from church. We borrowed a friend's wheelchair as I wouldn't have been able to last more than an hour on my feet at an expo like that. I'm so glad we went as we had an amazing time!

There was a LOT to do, something I'm not really used to from attending MCM Expos. Not only did they have all the latest big name game releases, they also had lots of Indie game designers (I thoroughly enjoyed Unboxed, the Box simulator!) and more than half the hall was taken up with retro games. You name a console, you name an arcade machine, they had it. The selection of games on show to play was excellent, and I could easily have spent the day moving from table to table reliving childhood memories.

They also had a huge display of pinball machines, at least one of which had an open glass side so you could see the mechanisms inside. From my vantage point in the wheelchair I could actually see the sparks flying between switches as the machine was played with, it was awesome.

We, of course, went in cosplay, as Emmet and Wild Style from the Lego Movie (on the grounds that we've totally played the game of that film, and it was a good game!). I didn't make the tracksuit or the construction clothes, as all were cheap to buy, and my husband already had the blue shirt. I did however paint the tracksuit, style the wigs, and add all the detail to the Emmet costume. I loved the cosplay masquerade, and was pleasantly surprised by the very high standard of costuming!

If you want to see more about how I made the Emmet costume, you can check out my youtube channel here. Were you at PLAYexpo? What was your favourite part?